Agrigento, we continued on to Palermo. The city was founded by the
Phoenicians in 734 BC. It was later conquered by the Romans, followed
by the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Swabians. Their influence
is seen in the architecture and art throughout the city.
Our city tour took us to the Palazzo dei Normanni, aka the Royal
Palace. It was built in the ninth century during the Arab period
but later became the seat of Norman and Swabian kings. The main
objective of our visit was to see the magnificent Palatine Chapel
within the Royal Palace.
Begun in 1130, it contains some of the finest examples of Norman
Art and Byzantine mosaics. When we walked through the doors, all
I could say was "Wow!" Every inch of the walls and ceiling
are covered with mosaics.
the Royal Palace, we went to the Palermo Cathedral. It was begun
in 1184 by order of Bishop Walter but is the product of remodels,
additions and modifications throughout the years. The bell towers
were added during the 14th century. The inside of the Cathedral
was not as impressive as the Palatine Chapel but does contain many
A small chapel is dedicated to St. Rosalia, the patron saint of
Palermo and her bones are preserved there. St. Rosalia is said to
have miraculously ended the plague in 1625.
One of the most interesting things in the Cathedral was the sun
dial on the floor. When the sun comes through a small hole in the
dome, at noon it crosses the sun dial at the correct zodiac sign
indicating the month of the year.
Palermo we took two optional tours. One was to Monreale, a picturesque
town just inland from Palermo. We visited the Cathedral which is
also noted for its 12th century mosaics. The
figure of Christ the Pantocrator was created by Arab and Byzantine
craftsmen.Christ's face is 9ft long and his gaze seems to follow
you throughout the church.
from the old and new testaments done in detail in mosaics line the
walls of the cathedral.This one depicts Eve being introduced to
Adam. After our visit to the Cathedral, we wandered through the
town and stopped at various vendors selling merchandise to tempt
the tourists. Being a tourist, we did succumb to the temptations!
second optional tour was to visit the Vucciria open air market in
Old Town Palermo. We fought our way through the crowds, down narrow
alleys full of vendors selling fresh produce, flowers, cheeses,
meat and fish. It was quite an experience watching and listening
to the haggling between the vendors and shoppers.
We ended up buying some bananas and some tiny strawberries. Would
have bought more had we some place to store them as everything looked
After the market we visited the Capuchin Catacombs. This was one
of the most unique attractions on our whole trip.
Eight thousand corpses, some partially mummified, some embalmed
and dressed in their 18th century finery - are perfectly preserved
and on display in a labyrinth of corridors in a crypt under the
Monastery of the Capuchin monks. The practice started with the monks
but soon the members of the rich bourgeoisie of Palermo asked to
be included. The corpses are grouped according to class or profession.
There's even a hallway of brides. We weren't allowed to take photos
but this is a copy of a postcard showing the display. While somewhat
macabre, it was also very interesting to see the styles of dress
during that period.
To view more photos from Palermo, please go to Palermo
Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to
Locations Visited Photos Map